Seven global clothing brands, including H&M, Gap and Levi Strauss & Co., roundly condemned the government’s use of security forces on protesting workers in an open letter Tuesday and urged all sides to return to the negotiating table to discuss a minimum wage raise.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia — which represents the country’s exporting factories — and six major trade unions, the letter expressed “deep felt concern over the tragic events that took place on Jan. 3.”
On Friday, government security forces opened fire on thousands of rioting workers in a Phnom Penh industrial park, leaving at least four dead and more than 30 people injured. This lethal show of force followed more than a week of nationwide demonstrations by workers protesting for a minimum wage increase.
“It is with great concern that we have observed both the widespread civil unrest and the government’s use of deadly force,” the letter said. “Our primary concerns are for the security and safety of the workers employed by our suppliers and the long-term stability of the Cambodian garment industry.”
The letter was signed by Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability of Swedish retail giant H&M; Kindley Walsh-Lawlor, vice president of Gap Inc.’s social and environmental responsibility department; Felix Poza, CSR global director for Inditex, the Spanish multinational clothing company that owns Zara, and Michael Kobori, vice president for Levi Strauss & Co.’s sustainability department.
Executives from three other sportswear companies also threw their weight behind the call for action: William Anderson, vice president of social and environmental affairs in Asia-Pacific for Adidas Group; Reiner Hengstmann, global director for Puma’s SAFE supply chain, and Abel Navarrete, director of corporate responsibility and product safety for Columbia Sportswear Co.
All seven brands urged the government, the manufacturers and the trade unions to “immediately join negotiations, in good faith, to swiftly and peacefully resolve this dispute,” and to endorse a mechanism that would lead to regular wage discussions in the future.
The government had initially offered $95 a month on Dec. 24, a $15 increase from the current wage, but workers rallied behind union leaders calling for an increase to $160 a month. The government has since made a concession and raised the amount to $100 a month, which workers still believe is not enough.
After Friday’s events, security forces heavily patrolled the scene of the protests, and City Hall announced that public demonstrations or gatherings would no longer be tolerated — a move that drew condemnation from international and local rights groups.
Dave Welsh, country head of the Solidarity Center — a labor rights organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO — said the open letter should have addressed the threats the government has imposed on trade unions, as well as criticized GMAC’s callous responses to the deaths.
Welsh added that there are currently more than 20 workers who have been imprisoned during these protests, and that their lawyers — afforded to them by the Solidarity Center and two other local rights groups — have no clue about their locations or conditions.
“There has to be a robust response to what is a really chilling effect on trade union rights in Cambodia,” Welsh said. “All of this is something that is not in the spirit of promoting trade union rights or the freedom of association. The louder the brands can speak up about this, the better.”
Van Sou Ieng, chairman of GMAC, said the brands are “listening to only one story,” and challenged them to show their commitment by continuing to place orders in Cambodia despite the industrial action and to increase their buying price by 15 percent to address the wage raise instated earlier in May, from $65 to $80.
“I ask them to place orders in Cambodia now as much as last year, even more in fact — that is my first challenge,” Sou Ieng said. “The other challenge is to increase the buying price because we have already increased the wage this year.”
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)